From the Field — East — March 2013

Our trail scouts' top local hikes, including fire tower views in New Jersey, a New York waterfall, and more.

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Hemlock Falls (Photo by Jackie Dickert)


Porters Creek (Photo by Brian Jorg)

South Mtn. Loop, South Mountain Reservation, NJ

Just a 45-minute train ride from NYC, this six-mile loop undulates through the thick forests and rocky gorges of a 2,047-acre urban oasis. Watch for deer, turkey, and coyote as you follow the sedate Rahway River en route to 50-foot Hemlock Falls at mile 3.5. Some years, it remains frozen into March. Near mile 5.5, score views from Washington Rock, named for its role as a patriot lookout point during the Revolutionary War. Trip ID411649

“From Washington Rock, you can see Staten Island.” 

Trail scout: Andrew Joyce, West Orange, NJ

Tremper Mountain via Willow Trail, Catskill Park, NY

Score secluded, 360-degree views into three states on this 8.8-mile out-and-back. Peakbaggers often bypass this 2,740-footer in favor of higher neighbors, so you could have it to yourself. Watch for porcupine tracks in the snow (they look like undulating furrows) as you ascend through hardwood forest and a hemlock ravine. The payoff: Views from Tremper’s fire tower (built 1917). Climb the 47-foot steel structure to peer just above tree level at the 4,000-foot Burroughs Range looming to the southwest. Trip ID1376947

“A half-mile past the Warner Creek Trail junction, bushwhack .3 mile south to another, unnamed summit.” 

Trail scout: Aaron Bennett, Shandaken, NY

Buttermilk/North Bank Loop, James River Park System, VA

Trace both banks of the powerful James River on this seven-mile loop through a wildlife-rich city park, where spring breaks into a haze of red maple flowers and yellow spicebush. Follow the south shore to reach Belle Isle at mile 3.3, then circumnavigate the island on a one-mile spur loop. On the north shore, detour a mile east to see nesting herons performing courtship displays near the railroad bridge. Return past 160-year-old Hollywood Cemetery, resting place of Presidents James Monroe and John Tyler. Trip ID767082

“In March, spawning threadfin shad attract fish-eating birds like double-breasted cormorants and great blue herons.”

Trail scout: Ralph White, Richmond, VA

Porters Creek Trail, Great Smoky Mountains NP, TN

In March, see dozens of flower varieties blooming simultaneously on this 7.8-mile out-and-back. Follow a surging stream to a campsite beneath old-growth hemlocks and yellow poplars. Watch for pale-purple spring beauties, violets, and blankets of white-fringed phacelia around mile one, and admire 65-foot seasonal Fern Branch Falls at mile 1.8. Continue two miles to secluded campsite 31 ($4/person/night). Trip ID1067244

“Blossoms can be so thick, they look like snow.”

Trail scout: Caitlin WorthGatlinburg, TN

Nubbin Creek Trail, Talladega NF, AL

Savor secluded hollows and cascading streams on the eastern flank of 2,346-foot Talladega Mountain on this 4.8-mile out-and-back in the Cheaha Wilderness. At mile 1.8, cross Mill Shoal Creek, which tumbles 10 feet over mossy rock slabs to intersect the trail. To extend the hike to about an 8.5-mile lollipop, turn right at the T-junction near mile three; follow a ridgeline section of the 335-mile Pinhoti Trail for near-constant views of rolling hills and valleys, then connect back to Nubbin Creek via the Odum Scout Trail. Trip ID14537

“Look upstream in all three gulches to see small falls.”

Trail scout: Dante Martinez, Atlanta, GA

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